Do you agree? As a creative there’s nothing worse than facing the blank page?
But, instead of trying to find the courage to stare that empty page down, why not avoid it altogether?
No, I’m not advocating you give up doing any creative work! But what if you could personalise your process to circumvent starting with a bare page?
I beat 20 years of creative block by filling the glaring white space of the blank page with collage. Gradually I developed the process to the one I use today:
Generating ideal conditions for creativity to happen
Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s the interaction and interplay between our craft, the world we experience, and the things we love.
To ensure we're creative often - and even reliably - we need to create an ongoing dialogue between our art form, our experiences and our passions. In fact, a productive creative practice relies on strategies which make sure we don’t show up to the process ‘empty-handed’.
Ways to fill the blank page
Whatever your medium, you can use the same simple approaches to beginning a new piece of work:
Keep Ideas or ‘Swipe’ files
Sketchbooks, notebooks, physical files, boxes, digital folders, Pinterest or Trello boards. It doesn’t matter. As long you can find what you need in a way that is predictable or random according to your preferences.
“Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.”Austin Kleon - Steal Like an Artist
Build on / extend / amplify your previous work
Starting can be as simple as making a different version of something you’ve already created.
The creative process is a constant dance along the edge of our comfort zone. When we re-work an existing idea, we experience an inbuilt familiarity. This in turn, allows us freedom to innovate.
“Creative ideas have to exist in the balance between the familiar and the new.”David Eagleman
A template is a blank structure to hang your idea on. You can adapt pre-made ones like the ones you find in graphic programs like Canva. Or create your own based on other people’s (good) ideas.
My other half loves Adobe Spark design templates. He uses them as a starting point to create the unique materials for marketing his online Tai Chi courses.
I build mine, based on a combo of my own and other people’s ideas. I refine them gradually into something workable I can use over and over. (I wrote this post using one of my blog post templates.)
Spark off someone else’s idea
You have a whole world of ideas past and present to draw on. Being stimulated by someone else’s ideas isn’t cheating. It’s a normal, healthy part of the creative process.
Art is like jazz - a riff on ideas that have gone before, mixed with the unique perspective of the artist that makes it. The more unrelated to your own field the spark idea is, the more original your work will be.
In 1958, Pablo Picasso created a series of 58 paintings that reinterpreted and/or recreated Velázquez’ iconic 1656 painting “Las Meninas.”
But it’s not just Picasso. The Wikipedia entry on Picasso’s version lists nearly 30 artists who’ve made art which riffed on the Velázquez painting!
"If someone set out to copy Las Meninas . . . I would try to do it in my way, forgetting Velázquez. . . . So, little by little, I would paint my Meninas which would appear detestable to the professional copyist; they wouldn’t be the ones he would believe he had seen in Velázquez’s canvas, but they would be “my” Meninas."Pablo Picasso
So don’t let facing the blank page derail your creative process. Instead make sure you always have starter ideas to fill it with - then adapt from there.